Thoughts on having too many choices – Garmin and Polar

During the last several months, I used primarily my Fenix 7X for my sport activities, mostly because the battery lasts so much and I don’t have to look for my charger for weeks, regardless of how much I use it for tracking my runs or walks.

But, at the same time, I have worn the Polar Vantage V2 also very much – especially at night, to look at the sleep analysis and also for my runs, since I like the post-workout analysis in Polar Flow.

Side by side – Vantage V2 and Fenix 7X SS

For 24/7 wear, the Polar Vantage V2 is easier to wear because of its size and lightness, but also it lacks the notification flexibility Fenix has – you can’t actually use the Polar only to notify you on calls and nothing else – it’s all or nothing and I can’t stand that – also it doesn’t support Romanian charset, so the messages are not complete when displayed on the watch. So, in the end, I wear the Polar for several days and after that I come back to my Fenix, just because of missing this small (but important for me) feature – the flexibility of notifications. I don’t use the music storage, payment or even the maps .. at least not for running, maybe for hiking – so I don’t miss much of my Fenix when I wear the Vantage V2.

In terms of GPS accuracy, I can’t complain – the Vantage V2 works just fine for me – the measured distance seems even better than Fenix 7X with all systems/multiple-band on (based on 2 runs without Stryd and correction from Strava … I know it’s not scientific measurement with some fancy wheel). The stability of the connection with my Stryd is good, never had issues and I feel that Polar takes the calibration factor more serious than Garmin, because it just applies the calibration factor to the “raw distance” measured by Stryd, whereas Garmin tends to have a lower multiplication value than the calibration factor (I did more than 10 tests with both and Stryd, shared the details with the Stryd team .. never got an answer other than they need to look into it, but that wasn’t their priority).

For Vantage V2 users, please wear the watch on the hand you say you wear it in Flow, because otherwise I’ve seen that the altimeter goes crazy and you’ll get wrong ups and downs in your runs … like 40-50 meters up and down suddenly – that doesn’t happen is I wear it on my left hand (where it is “declared” to be) – same route, normal changes in altitude not

Vantage V2 worn on the right hand (but declared on the left) – consistent drops of altitude for no reason
Vantage V2 worn on the left hand – same route – much closer to reality (+/- 6 meters change on the route)

Also, for best results, if you want to get good results from your OH1 or Verity Sense, wear it on the same arm as the watch you connect with … otherwise you may see drops .. it doesn’t happen each time, but it happens and it does affect both Garmin of Polar watches so it doesn’t matter if it’s ANT+ or Bluetooth connection.

You can’t use this measurement much…it skews all your training data
Even Vantage V2 has seen 4 drops – but at least the average is 140bpm and not 134bpm

What changes would make the Polar Vantage V2 to stay on my wrist permanently? Not that many, and not that difficult (in my view) to implement:

  • notification flexibility (calls/calls+the rest) like they recently added notifications during workouts on the V2 (as with Pacer Pro)
  • enhanced search in Flow workouts – can I just find my marathons in a search? (I can do it in all the other tools I use – Garmin Connect, Strava, Runnalyze,, Training Peaks)
  • more flexible structured workouts definition – not just zone based but value based – it would open up the possibility to (for the beginning manually) migrate/define some plans from other platforms (let’s take for example Jack Daniel’s formula applied to pace .. hard to keep it in custom zones)

Any other change would be appreciated – more support for extended data from Stryd, multiple alarms, but those would be secondary. And also, maybe a faster sync with the Flow mobile app … it’s just painful sometimes .. even if I save the workout on my Garmin one full minute after I saved it on my Vantage V2, Garmin will sync it faster to connect and subsequently to Strava for example.

As software development, both for device on also platforms, Garmin and Polar are at opposite sides of speed – Garmin sends so many new changes with their alpha/beta approach, Polar changes so little and so seldom. Even though people complained about Garmin’s experiments, I didn’t see any stability issues with my Fenix 7X (I used the latest beta 9.28b) and the features they released with Forerunner 955 are starting to appear on the Fenix line as well (HRV Status trends, Training Readiness, adaptive daily workouts with events correlation) – their sleep detection has improved over the last months, matching the results I see on my Vantage V2. Polar software is stable, but it’s also static .. it didn’t change much (at least not visibly) – they ported the notifications during workouts from Pacer line, but nothing else.

Garmin takes into account for the HRV over night as well so yesterday’s score for Garmin is 46 and that’s well reflected in the Nightly Recharge in Polar, but not in the Sleep Score.

The Sleep Score is 82 but the ANS is very poor – the result is Poor (Garmin for the same night says 46 score)

I’m looking forward to seeing the complete rollout of the features from 955 to Fenix 7 line, so far the work is impressive.

For Polar, I hope that they will invest more into their platform and new improvements will come to Vantage V2 or at least the V3 will add the expected improvements (some of the hardware ones from Pacer Pro were well received) and maybe they will keep their place as an alternative for the Garmin feature myriad or even the push coming from Coros (and Apple ?).

Be well and enjoy your running!

Author: Liviu Nastasa

Passionate about software development, sociology, running...definitely a geek.

4 thoughts

  1. It would be really nice to have that flexibility in structured workouts for power as a percentage/value. Agree on extended Stryd data too. I don’t make as much use of notifications. But, if they are going to have the feature, it should work as expected when compared to other platforms. On the Garmin front, I’ve been trying to experiment with the Beta software on the 7X for native power. However, the more I experiment, the less I find useful. For example, Garmin does not expose native power to the API except for their newly added power fields. So IQ apps like RunPowerWorkout or 8020 Endurance Run Zones have now way to access it. They’v not confirmed plans to actually support Stryd or potentially other third party sensors for run power either. Besides the plumbing so to speak, there is no analysis, power curve, and other tools for working with the native run power. It appears all Garmin did was eliminate the need for using one IQ custom data field slot when running with native power.

    1. With Polar, I’d love to be surprised by their features and improvements, but at the same time I feel like their bandwidth is not allocated to meet my priorities.

      Garmin had a lot of new things released recently, they need to tidy up their game – I’ve seen progress with sleep, the daily suggested workouts in the context of defined evens look promising (can’t say those are effective yet – maybe they are as FitSpark is only for hobbyists and not actually help you get closer to your race objectives). With running power I’m disappointed, I was expecting native power support but just like with Polar, Coros, Wahoo and not restricted to Garmin’s own hardware accessories. Luckily I use Polar H10 and Verity Pulse and I’m not affected like others by using HRM and mixing Stryd with Garmin power.

      Let’s see they will play depending on Apple’s new watch Pro characteristics.

      1. I think you can go in and customize a workout to hit a power zone or speed zone for different intervals or on a set distance. On the phases this works too. I have yet to actually try it, but plan to tomorrow if possible

      2. You’re right that the zones (HR, pace, power) are customizable, but they still require to create a continuous range of values whereas Jack Daniel’s or Pfitz pace zones are discrete; for example the prescribed paces for Long Runs are not in my case close to Interval or Threshold, so even if you can absorb this inconvenience in your training, it’s not ideal. Also, this is a limitation that stands in the way of integrating Polar Flow with other third party platforms (like Training Peaks), since those structured intervals are not able to map to Polar Zones, those need some arbitrary value ranges for each phase. Anyway, if you like Polar Flow and you’re happy with what Polar can offer now, that’s great – their strengths are clear for me, but also it’s clear that they need to evolve.

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